Vietnamese Women's Day 20/10

Mini fresh market

HDWU Commune Staffs in Lien Mac
Empowering women has been the most concern topic all over the world. In developing countries where there is a huge gap of basic rights between women and men. In Vietnam where rural areas make up 70% of the population for the country, women have less authority in household than men. That's why Vietnam Women's Union has been established since October 20, 1930 besides the International Woman Union in order to protect the women's right.
10 years ago, only the celebration for International Women Day was the big thing for women back then. However; as the country grows, the position of women in society can't be denial. As 20/10 celebration grows bigger through out the year, I can feel the important of women having her own entrepreneurs and they become more confident. 
Our field partner, East Meets West, together with local Women Union offer a special loan product that help building hygienic latrines for low in-come women. As I had opportunity to talked to Mrs. Ngoc, the vice chairwoman of Hai Duong Women Union, I expressed my concern on how they can pay back on those loans if they are so poor. Mrs. Ngoc answered that lending to the poor is much assure than to the rich. The poors have their dignity, especially women. By having a loan, it will be a motivation not only for improving hygiene but also helping her more creative in productivity. For example, before taking the loan for latrine, with income less than $35, her family would care less about sanitary as well as she might not utilize her garden or invest in raising poultries. A septic tank latrine is a solution for hygiene plus it can create free access to organic fertilizer. The loan also gives the women purposes to go above and beyond, by improving her family living condition, she'll feel more confident not only having a voice in her family, but also gaining position in her commune.
You can check out Hai Duong's loans for latrines here.
Mrs. Ngoc - Vice Chairwoman of Hai Duong WU

Sharing the same thought, mrs. Tinh, Kiva Coordinator in Thanh Hoa Fund for Poor Women said that eversince the organization established in 2008, they have helped more than 1,300 group loans started up. Many groups have reached their 4th loan cycle after 5 years with the repayment rate  that's the strong proof of growth and demand for this loan product.
Back in 2010, when I first lent out in Kiva, it took me quite some times to read through the profile, risk rate, about the field partner, and the repayment term to ensure that I will have my money repay back. FPW was one of the field partners that I made most of my loans and I was impressed by their accuracy in repayment and journal. You can check out more loans from FPW here Together with Tinh, we went to Thieu Hoa to visit some of the borrowers who have successfully repaid and expanded their business.
Thieu Hoa is 45 minutes away from Thanh Hoa city, it was raining on that day so we decided to take the bus then the commune staffs would take us to visit the client.
FPW's Thieu Hoa staffs
Mrs. Phuong, she's small yet her face always has a happy smile. Greeted us in her new "restaurant", she told us about her journey to start up business.
Mrs. Phuong and her restaurant

It was back to the time when she was single, she mainly sold accessories to students in junior and high school in Thanh Hoa city for 6 years. When she got married and had a baby, they decided to move out of the city in 2006. It was tough because Phuong didn't know any neighbors in that area. Her baby was small and she was unemployed during that time. The burden of economic made she once thought that it couldn't get worse, then the Women Union of Thieu Hoa had a campaign for microfinance, Phuong was approved for a small loan with Kiva to start her business in general retail. After 5 loan cycle, she now expands her business to restaurant that major in roasted duck.
Phuong's restaurant in Thieu Hoa

Phuong said that when she first opened her retail store, this neighbor wasn't this crowded, there were only 3-5 houses around, her husband is a truck driver that often has to transport goods away from home. When she initiated the idea of open a small retail at home, her husband supported and he helped her in delivery goods go her retail shop. Now with the new business, her husband spends more time as the main chef, and educates their 2 kids.  Phuong also shared that the Women Union also a great place for women in commune gather and share their experience in life and business. She said that from empty hands, her family now can have a stable income, her kids can have good education and she can employ some labors in her commune during peak season to help out at the shop and restaurant. Phuong is grateful for people who have helped her start-up and Kiva's loans have absolutely made a huge impact to her life.
Prepare for the evening sales

It's so inspiring to be able to meet with these amazing women. Visiting our next borrowers, Mrs. Nhan, has overcome her hardship eversince she married and moved out of her village. My impression about Mrs. Nhan is a strong will woman, she has never given up both in her life and business. She said that once she decided to take loans, she would do her best to pay it back. She remembered her first loan that wasn't with FPW back in 2007, when the bank refused to lend to Mrs. Nhan, she had to take loan with high interest from a loan shark. She used that loan to invest in buying a motorcycle for transporting fruits. Mrs. Nhan is the main worker in her household, her husband is a guard for a local kindergarden that couldn't afford to sustain the whole family. It took her awhile to pay off her first loan, then the Thieu Hoa Women's Union encouraged her to take loan with FPW to expand her shop for not only selling fruits, but also dry food. With the advantage of the loan product that FPW offered, Mrs. Nhan only have to pay back a small amount of principle, interest and saving within a year. Through time, Mrs. Nhan has proved her business and micro-leadership skills. Each member in the family supports her business like her husband deliver goods, her 2 sons helped in taking care of the shop. In peak season like Lunar New Year, she also opened a parking lot for tourists. Education for her sons is the only wish that Mrs. Nhan has, even in through the hardship time, she ate less to save money so her kids can go to school. Hard working and creative in her business, she does pretty much evreything from selling fruits and sweets to fixing bicycles, her family now can have a stable life.
Deep in thinking about when she started up

Mrs. Nhan happily shared to us that this is her 4th loan cycle and she's going on the 5th cycle to stock up for Lunar New Year peak season. Both of her sons already graduated from university and currently working at the local government office in Thanh Hoa. Mrs. Nhan has become a great role model that inspiring other women to step up and decide to change.

Mrs. Nhấn and her shop

Never gave into poverty, that's the spirit for most of the women I have met in Vietnam. With just $25, a loan can empower women with capital, trust, and more than anything a key to fight against poverty.

About the author

Huyen Bui

Huyen is originally from Vietnam and has been studying broad in the States for more than 6 years. She graduated from University of Houston with her BA in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. After that, she spent a year back in her home country to work with Unilever Vietnam as International Marketing Management Trainee. Currently, Huyen is doing her Masters in Project Management. Huyen is excited to start her Kiva Fellowship in Thanh Hoa, Vietnam and looking forward to sharpening her professional skills not only in marketing, but also in project management. She hopes to bring a new energy to the team as well as helping more people start their businesses.